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Taking the plunge ! by Ryan Charlton

Originally published in January 2022.

With the new precision rifle shooting season getting ready to kick off and having had a lot of conversations with people looking to get started for the first time. I wanted to share some thoughts on what makes a good shooter and squad mate, the two are definitely interlinked.

1 – Be safe. As with every type of shooting safety is always the number one priority. This is especially true when trying to shoot quickly from a wobbly barricade. Thankfully, it’s something most shooters are mindful of and is a transferable skill regardless of shooting background. Muzzle awareness must always be at the forefront of everyone’s mind, so always keeping the rifle pointing in a safe direction is a must. Something that’s precision rifle specific is only closing the bolt when you’re on target; this means a loaded rifle is always pointing into a safe back stop. Should the trigger fail or get inadvertently knocked causing the gun to fire before you’re ready, then the worst that happens is you lose a point.

Ultimately safety is everyone’s responsibility, and keeping it at the top of our priority list ensures that we can all continue doing what we enjoy to do.

2 – Be polite and pleasant. It’s very easy to get wrapped up in what’s happening through the scope, however there’s a small army of volunteers that make the events happen. Thanking a stage officer, marshal or event organiser goes a long way towards making it worthwhile for someone to give up their weekend as well as all of the time they’ve spent planning and setting things up. For extra brownie points, the offer of a snack or spare drink is always appreciated.

From a squad mate point of view, helping police your squad mates’ brass will help speed the day up and ensure they go home with their valuable brass to reload once they get home. Taking turns to mark cards or spot shots will also allow everyone else time to prep for their turn to shoot and being on glass allows you to see other shooters’ fall of shot.

3 – Leave your ego at home! As with most skills, we’re all learning and things don’t always go as well as we’d like. Precision rifle shooting is as infuriating as it is rewarding. There is always something new to learn and there’s always someone better. Keep an open mind and remember the event is meant to be enjoyable. Shots will miss, but the time to remember them and stew over it is away from the venue when you’re practicing. Move to the next shot and concentrate on the task at hand rather than something that can’t be controlled.

Precision rifle shooters are typically a generous bunch and, in my experience, will gladly lend specialist kit as well as do their best to help squad mates hit more targets. Again, being polite and gracious ensures you’ll have the support of your squad mates and that makes the day much more enjoyable. Remember if you’ve got something that could help a squad mate out, an offer to lend kit could well make someone else’s day. I’ve been to shoots where I’ve lent out or borrowed bipods, tripods, mags, bags and dished out Haribo to anyone nearby. It really helps the overall atmosphere when everyone is supportive and polite.

4 – Have fun, after all it’s meant to be enjoyable. Getting out in stunning scenery with good company, shooting guns and ringing steel is a sure-fire way to end up wearing a big grin.

On the subject of fun, the NRL22 series at Silverstone Shooting Centre has continued to go from strength to strength. More new shooters took part in the second round which used the NRL22 August 2021 course of fire. This was a real test of being an all round rifleman, with some stages having lots of movement, shooting from the weak side, two prone stages, an entire stage of unsupported standing and small targets! It was an excellent test of a variety of skills.

16 shooters braved cold temperatures and were very glad for the roof above the firing line at Silverstone to keep the rain off – Surely we’re due good weather eventually?! Pleasingly there were even more brand-new shooters, some who shot their first competition ever.

I was shooting in the morning session with some precision rifle shooting regulars, my colleague Dan and some of the Silverstone members. We had a great supportive atmosphere with missed shots getting called and gear being leant amongst participants. For this course of fire there was a timed stage which involved shooting from the four lowest rungs of the ladder. With bonus points available for finishing before the 120 second time limit was over, the speed demons amongst us were relishing the chance to test our metal against the shot timer! I had a good round, using a bag borrowed from Andy Simpson, recording a clean 10/10 run in 78 seconds! This was the fastest time of the day and the streak continued so I recorded my second NRL22 win, with Tom Rice in second place with Ben McIlwane in third and Lee Hopgood in fourth one to watch as that was his first time out with his new rifle. Dan struggled with the range rifle however his position building and technique was once again very good. After the morning session concluded, I volunteered to spot shots for the afternoon shooters, which gave me chance to hang out and observe some shooters I’d never met. Watching some excellent standing shooters record very impressive scores on the unsupported stage with use of a sling to aid stability – a technique I’d like to learn. Ultimately, I enjoyed calling impacts to signify a target had been hit, as well as helping the newer shooters connect with steel by offering corrections.

Away from the NRL22 I paid Mike Norris from Brock & Norris a visit, to build a rifle for MrsC to use. This rifle is a bit special as it was originally destined to be a birthday present to myself for a significant birthday. As she’s done so well with my spare rifle, she’s got an MDT ACC chassis with a shorter butt stock to suit her dimensions. The barrel, although still a relative heavyweight, is a significantly lighter profile than mine. The custom profile was done in house by Mike, who dialled in every operation to be perpendicular with the bore and used the exact same attention to detail he’s used on my race guns. The rifle is designed to be light enough for MrsC to handle, whilst being heavy enough to provide a stable platform. With this achieved, it needed to stand out so the chassis was treated to a Rose Gold Cerakote paint job from FMJ Firearms. So far the rifle is showing great promise. More to follow as we both get ready for the first PRS UK match of 2022!